If you’re a small to medium-sized company it can be difficult to find the budget and expertise to be able to conduct research and development to find solutions to problems.
What most people don’t realise is that there may already be a solution out there for developing new products, systems or processes, making it quicker, cheaper and easier to commercialise your innovation.
The secret is the “patent super library”. Instead of looking at textbooks or academic research, the global patent library means people have access to the documentation of more than a century of technological endeavour all in one place.
To date more than 82 million patents have been published worldwide. Each individual patent was filed with a particular purpose in mind, usually to secure protection for a unique idea to support the commercialisation of that idea ahead of potential competitors.
The patent literature is a collection of documents that make up a fantastic resource full of clever, remarkable and sometimes bizarre solutions to technological and scientific problems. Essentially a patent is an innovation instruction manual.
The basic principle of the patent system is that an inventor is given a monopoly by way of the right to use an invention for up to 20 years, in return for documenting how the invention works, so that it is available for the benefit of others once the period of monopoly has ended.
A patent is the document the inventor creates to explain what the invention is and how to put it into practice. Patents not only describe specific implementations of the invention, but the fundamental concept itself, which makes it possible for an expert to adapt the solution to any situation.
For instance, a company is developing a new machine and needs a valve that has a specific function. The in-house engineers are not aware of any valve on the market that can perform that function. Rather than going to the trouble of developing the valve from scratch, the company gets its patent attorneys to conduct a patent solution search.
The patent attorneys find a patent filed by a Canadian company a few years ago that describes exactly what the valve is. As the patent was never filed in New Zealand the company is free to use the same valve in its new machine, saving time and money in getting its new product to the market.
Consequently, patent solution searching at the beginning of a new development project could save a lot of time and money. The cost of this kind of information mining will pale in comparison with a research project that could last months or years.
At James & Wells we have extensive experience in searching patent databases for technologies of all kinds and delving into the immense amount of information available in patents around the world.If we don’t find the answer somewhere, what we do find might help your research and development move forward faster, or lead it in an unexpected direction, potentially opening up new markets and opportunities.
Jonathan Lucas is a Senior Associate at the James & Wells Auckland office. Email [email protected] or phone 09 914 6740.
April 1, 2014